Siemens chief Eric Spiegel: ‘America has a training gap’


An employee operates a a fork lift at the Chrysler Group transmission plant in Kokomo, Ind., on Feb. 28, 2013. (Daniel Acker/BLOOMBERG)

What does the future of American manufacturing look like? That’s among the questions being posed Tuesday morning at a Washington Post Live event featuring industry and thought leaders . The morning started with Eric Spiegel, the president and CEO of Siemens, the event’s lead corporate sponsor.

Spiegel kicked off with a statement that we have covered frequently on this blog: training and companies’— particularly high-tech companies—constant need for more skilled workers. But rather than call for more individuals with the skills necessary, Spiegel threw the gauntlet down at the feet of companies.

“America has a training gap,”Spiegel said. “Until we put the burden on those who train rather than those who need to be trained, we’ll never solve this problem.”

Today the United States ranks “dead last,” Spiegal said, in workforce training. Ron Bloom, vice chairman of U.S. investment banking at Lazard Frères & Co and President Obama’s former assistant for manufacturing policy, underlined the problem, highlighting the important place the nation’s manufacturing sector holds in the country’s cultural fabric.

“For many people the strength of our manufacturing sector has come to symbolize the strength of the country,” Bloom said.

As the immigration debate continues, with many calling for more skilled-worker visas and for the doors to be opened wider for those with STEM skills, Spiegel’s call is a notable one. When addressing the future of manufacturing, it’s as much about companies’ responsibility, he said, as it is workers’. And the stakes are high.

“If we lose the manufacturing, then the innovation leaves with it and now, all of a sudden, what are we left to do in America?” he said.

Washington Post Live will be streaming the event live until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tune in and let us know what your vision is of the future of manufacturing in the United States and what technologies will come to bear in the future both near and far.

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